Can legal advocacy impact public health? Explore the possibilities in the Health Law Clinic, a medical-legal partnership with UPMC - Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Medical-Legal partnerships enable legal advocates to collaborate with a patient’s medical care team to address the social determinants of health that can affect patient outcomes. Recognizing that acute, preventative, and rehabilitative care are only part of the whole health equation, the Health Law Clinic specifically addresses the role of income, education, caregiver stability, and self-determination on patient health.
The Clinic Seminar
Law students who have completed three semesters of law school may enroll in the Health Law Clinic. The seminar component of the Clinic provides students with the substantive content necessary to counsel clients in three subject matters: supplemental security income (SSI), special education, and substitute medical-decision making. Additional coursework is organized with a systemic justice focus. Students will evaluate their advocacy experience in comparison to what they will learn about “upstream” problem solving, systems thinking, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Students will explore policies that challenge, and structures that reinforce, health outcome disparity. Students will identify the ways in which a lack of access to health care and lack of access to justice reinforce cycles of poverty, and explore the impact of social determinants of health on health outcomes. Students from Pitt’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing may participate in some seminar sessions. All classes are participatory and interactive.
Once the substantive portion of the clinic is complete, students will staff various outpatient clinics at Children’s Hospital by providing legal service screenings and consults.
Additionally, each clinic student carries a caseload of 2-3 cases, in various stages of development. Students will have opportunities to represent parents of children with disabilities in court and in administrative hearings, as well as in negotiations with area school districts. Further activities include: conducting interviews; engaging in client counseling; gathering evidence; and drafting legal memoranda, complaints, and petitions. Clinic cases come directly from student consults or medical team referrals. Students must meet with the clinic director for weekly supervision meetings.
By increasing access to legal advocacy and positive health outcomes for children whose health needs put them at risk, the clinic provides an impactful experiential learning experience.
8 credits, completed over consecutive two semesters (6 credits in the first semester; 2 credits in the second semester). Students must register for the Health Law Clinic extension to participate in the spring session of the course, or they will receive a withdraw (“W”) for the first semester.Transcript / Awarding of Credits
Credits are awarded at the completion of each semester. Students who fail to successfully complete the Health Law Clinic extension will receive a withdraw (“W”) for both semesters.
No extension is available beyond the 8 credit, two semester clinic experience.
Eligibility Requirements / Prerequisites
Given the course structure, only full-time, 3L students may register. Students enrolled in the clinic must apply for and obtain a certified legal intern designation from the Pennsylvania Bar. Participants must be willing to comply with clearance requirements required of all UMPC volunteers.
Application Procedure and Selection Basis
Students register for the Health Law Clinic and the Clinic extension as they do for any other class. The class is capped at 8 students.
Faculty / Staff
Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusive Excellence, Director of the Health Law Clinic, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Supervising Attorney
Tomar Pierson-Brown is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law Clinic. Under her leadership, the Health Law Clinic operates as a medical-legal partnership with UPMC-Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Pierson-Brown previously served as a Clinical Instructor and Supervising Attorney in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law. Prior to academia, she was an attorney with Children’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., and an Equal Justice Works fellow with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Pierson-Brown received a JD from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and an LLM in clinical legal education and systems change from the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law.